Thursday, January 24

10E2107: Not Your Grandmother's Library



Big article in the current Stratton magazine (and available online) describing the happy state of several libraries in Vermont that are creating a full community experience as well as fulfilling traditional roles. Of course this does not happen without support (public and/or private), and vocal advocates - so good for them. I happen to have grown up with one of those mentioned, South Londonderry Free Library. Excerpts from the article below.
Vermont’s early settlers brought their muskets and kettles with them, but they also tucked books, especially family Bibles, into their wagons. Reading has always been important to Vermonters. The Green Mountain Boys distributed broadsides and hammered them onto walls, which indicates a literate population, and the newspaper from which the Rutland Herald developed began printing in 1793. 
Fundraising has become a large part of library life. Although most libraries receive some financial support from their towns, it’s not enough to cover all expenses. The Canfield and Pawlet libraries include separate art galleries and the libraries receive a percent of any sale. Raffles, books sales, plant sales, holiday bazaars and special events such as a golf tournament sponsored by the Rupert Library help fill the coffers. 
When I was a child we went to the library every week only to borrow books, quietly. Now, the library is a community center. Even the smallest [libraries] feature events for all ages: story times for preschoolers; reading groups for older children and adults; art, dance, exercise, crafts and yoga classes; discussion groups, lectures and author readings, film screenings and local meetings. 
As Betsy Bleakie of the Mark Skinner reminded me with a smile, “We’re the community living room— we’re not political or religious, we’re open to everyone. It’s not your grandmother’s library any more.”
This happy situation not being played out all over VT though - as evidenced by the recent layoff of the entire St Johnsbury Atheneum staff; further reading. If that link affects you, please have a look at Rural Librarians Unite.

2 comments:

Unknown said...

Great article, thanks for bringing attention to it James. I probably spent at least 3 hours a day in the Pawlet Public library as a kid and who knows how many in the Winhall Library while my grandmother ran it. I'm probably one of the few people who could say it was in fact my grandmother's library, but it was a good thing because I never had a late charge in my life.

Amatourist said...

I've been meaning to ask your take on bookless libraries? We're being confronted w/ that here in San Antonio. It's diverting county money from the "traditional" library system (though traditional is a misnomer b/c, as you note above, these spaces are more community hubs than just places to check out books).